5 pathways to systemic urban change

From climate change to urbanization, the rate and scale of global change is unprecedented. These impacts are changing the face of everyday life and posing substantial risk to communities and natural systems.

Sustainable urban development will play a decisive role in global development. As cities grow and change, so do the demands on social infrastructure, economic systems and natural resources. It is critical that we fundamentally reorient the patterns of daily life, our built environment and the natural systems in and around cities worldwide. The success and scale of urban transformation will determine whether we deliver on the goals set in the global sustainable development agenda.

So, how we make that happen?

The 5 ICLEI pathways

ICLEI has designed five interconnected development pathways that enable local and regional governments to implement change across entire urban systems:

Low emission development to curb climate change, create new economic opportunities and improve the health of people and natural systems.

Nature-based development to protect and enhance the biodiversity and ecosystems in and around our cities, which underpin key aspects of local economies and the well-being and resilience of our communities.

Circular development and new models of production and consumption to build sustainable societies that use recyclable, sharable and regenerative resources, to end the linear model of produce, consume, discard and to meet the material and development needs of a growing global population.

Resilient development to anticipate, prevent, absorb and recover from shocks and stresses, particularly those brought about by rapid environmental technological, social and demographic change, and to improve essential basic response structures and functions.

Equitable and people-centered development to build more just, livable and inclusive urban communities and address poverty.

These pathways create dynamic interactions within and across urban systems. They offer a way to design holistic and integrated solutions.

Ok, and what does that mean exactly?

The 5 pathways and systemic change

At their core, the five pathways are designed to create connection points.

The pathways offer a framework for looking at the various systems within a city, from ecology to economy to transit and seeing how they interact. This requires buy-in from stakeholders in different municipal departments and levels of governments. Solutions devised using pathways thinking naturally cut across sectors and municipal boundaries.

Any individual ICLEI project, partnership or initiative may be oriented along a specific pathway, such as resilient development. Along the way, we explore connection points to other pathways. For instance, ICLEI experts look at how to leverage resilience building towards greater equity or where nature-based solutions make a community more resilient. By orienting our work this way, ICLEI brings local and regional governments along multiple pathways simultaneously. The pathways enable local and regional governments to design interventions and test solutions that drive social, ecological and economic change.

Where do we start?

The entry point concept

In any given city or region, there are a number entry points for sustainable development. The entry point might involve building on a strength such as a vibrant riverfront or a challenge like limited public transit. These entry points are where we start looking at integrated solutions and options.

For example, City A has a thriving farmers market in the heart of the city center. The market is a draw for the 9 to 5 lunch crowd and increasingly so for tourists. The city recognizes the financial and social potential of the market, but has never invested in it, and they have limited capacity to develop policies and light infrastructure to ensure it flourishes. ICLEI experts welcome this initiative as an entry point for a broader conversation on food systems and the role they play in a comprehensive urban sustainable development agenda.

We may begin by mapping the market to access to public transit and cycling and pedestrian infrastructure, looking at a number low emission and people-centered solutions to support the market. We look at everything from tree cover to edible plantings and recommend potential strategies for stormwater management.

We look at the diversity of the vendors and shoppers, the point of origin of the product and waste management. Working with the community, we look for neighborhood connections to ensure wide access to the market and affordability.

ICLEI experts build on relationships with the community to identify needs and work closely with local and regional governments to align priorities with our portfolio of initiatives, projects and partnerships. The aim is to take the city further along in its sustainable development by looking at different entry points from this holistic lens.

Now, how does this approach drive global sustainable development?

The multiplier effect towards global change

As a global network, ICLEIconnects local and regional governments worldwide, facilitating peer exchange and knowledge transfer. This scales up innovative sustainable development strategies, creating a multiplier effect to advance sustainable urban development worldwide. By coming together to share and test strategies, solutions and methodologies, our network sparks worldwide action.

Bringing it all together

In our urban era, urban transformation is the key to a more sustainable world.

Urban transformation requires systemic change across entire urban systems.

We need to reorient the patterns of daily life, our built environment and the natural systems in and around our cities through the five interconnected ICLEI pathways.

ICLEI offices design our projects, partnerships and initiatives to capitalize on the interconnections among the 5 pathways.

As a network ICLEI creates a multiplier effect and sparks collective action worldwide.

This is how we advance sustainable development worldwide.

Get ICLEI’s latest urban sustainability news

Similar Posts